Family of Dog: The Harvest by J.S. Bannerman
Coming to eReaders near you in Fall/Winter 2011!
Not recommended for readers under age 19!
FREE EXCERPT from Family of Dog: The Harvest
un-der-dog: 1. a competitor thought to have little chance of winning a fight or contest
2. a person who has little status in society
I know the underdog; we all know him.
One of the most troubling plagues that mankind has suffered from throughout history is complacency. It has been more damaging than polio, more putrid than the infamous Bubonic Plague and more rampant than influenza. And it is getting worse.
Our children are indoctrinated into the religion of ‘don’t ask’ from the first moment that they can open their mouths to question all that is around them. But unlike polio, plague and the flu, the disease of complacency is very easily cured – by questions!
Questions are important, the questions that we would stifle and ignore. This Orwellian ‘ignorance is knowledge’ campaign must end. Instead of relying upon a television to inform you what you want to eat, drink, wear, sell your soul to – why not get your mind a little dirty and find out for yourself what you need and want?
Oh, but time are different now that we have technology, you say anxiously? Wrong. The present era is not so very different from two millennia ago. Times may change, but people never do.
Now, that being said, you must bear in mind that this story is a work of fiction. I dreamed of an idea, and that idea evolved into a burning question; what happened to Lucifer?
There is no-one involved with this story who believes that any of the events contained herein are true. Those closest to me know of my love for controversy, as well as my love for the simplest of questions – ‘what if?’ I am not a Christian, although I was raised in the Church. I am in no way attempting to change anyone’s mind concerning faith, chance, kismet, or whatever other title a person defines their existence by.
I hope you enjoy the story.
I hope that you think, ponder, and above all else – question!
Mastema, mastema, mastema. He softly chanted the word over and over like a mantra in his mind. Remember the word. Mastema.
A smile of pure, blissful joy illuminated his face as he opened his eyes. He was seated cross-legged – Indian style, it used to be called before the Indians changed into Native Americans and opened all the casinos – upon a plush and woven white rug.
He was completely naked, for he never wore any clothing when he was praying. After all, if God is capable of seeing everything at any time, then a few thin layers of synthetic cloth to hide your body would be pointless. He took great pleasure from the way that people reacted when he told them of how freeing he found it to pray naked, how calming it is to approach Lord God hiding nothing from him. They were shocked for just an instant before the simplicity and rightness of his words dawned upon them.
There were two phrases that he heard most often in response to his naked devotions. “That makes perfect sense!” was almost always their first exclamation, and it was usually followed by an incredulous, “why didn’t I think of that?”
And those two simple statements sum up exactly what it is that separates the successful celebrity and your common rube. To rise above the rest, you just had to find a simple and effective way of doing something better; a way to twist the norm into something new and exciting, not to mention enticing.
He stood up gracefully, stretching his arms above his head whilst standing on the tip of his toes, warming his body up again after being seated so still for so long. Finishing his stretch, he headed towards the luxurious bathroom to prepare for his evening.
This was it. This was the evening that he had been working towards for his entire life, and he fully intended for it to be perfect. After a quick shower, he faced the mirror to shave his face. As he picked up the razor, he could hear the dull roar of many voices speaking at once seeping underneath the sliding glass door that led out to the balcony of his hotel room.
An impish grin formed underneath the layer of shaving cream. He had checked in under a false name, of course, but it had somehow leaked that he was staying here. His legion of followers were all screaming out their support for the oracle, the messenger, the prophet of God that he was. He felt himself getting hard just thinking about the fame that was now his.
An artist for the masses, they called him. He had recently been voted as one of the greatest performers of all time. Nobody could withstand the appeal of his work. Rich or poor, devoutly pious or shamelessly sexual, they all flocked to him alike. They slobbered and cried, adoring each and every little thing that he did.
The greedy demand from the public concerning his faith was blindly sated by his potent praise for God the Father. His showmanship was unmatched, his slight of hand unequalled by any who had come before.
A Frenchman by birth, he retained the briefest hint of a sultry accent that, when coupled with his remarkable good looks, gave him an awesome power. Women were irresistibly drawn to the riches that he so eagerly flaunted, flocking around him like moths around a flame, and the men came to be near to the sexuality that rolled from his body like sweat, perhaps hoping that some of it would rub off onto them.
He preached that the beauty and softness of a woman’s body was the most explicit proof of God’s wondrous works. Even as he ran his tongue in circles around the pink candy hardness of his model’s nipples, as she sighed and moaned out her pleasures whilst her hand worked between her thighs, he preached to her of the love and glory of the great I Am.
The Heretic Exhibit that he was debuting tonight in New York’s Central Park was to be the most unique, stunning and unforgettable performance of his entire career – the best that the world had ever seen. A carefully orchestrated and wildly expensive advertisement campaign along with subtle and skilled manipulation of the world’s media had come together to make this event spectacular.
The attendance was confidently predicted to smash all previous records. The thousands of tickets that had been made available had sold within an hour of going on sale, and much to his surprise a valet had quietly come to him requesting tickets for the President of the United States and his guest, the Pope, who had arranged a state visit to coincide with the show. He had arranged for them to have private seating right next to the stage to give them the best view of what was to happen.
The red limousine slowly crept through the crowded streets, bringing him as close as possible to the private trailer that had been set up as his dressing chambers before he was hustled out of the limousine and straight inside, just thirty minutes before he was due onto stage. Walking around the room, he nodded in appreciation of the decor.
He was alone in the trailer, just as he had requested; he was very strict upon being entirely alone as he prepared for a show. His rider had been executed to the letter; Venetian wine, freshly made sushi, ocean water with white wash cloths and deoxygenated water for his servants to bathe his feet in should he require it.
The bed was queen size, draped in white silk sheets and a white down comforter, with white mosquito netting cascading down from the ceiling. The entire room had been crafted to look like an angel’s wing; everything sparkled with the purity of a world without dirt. He may have had more bones in his closet than all of the people waiting for him put together, but he sure as hell knew how to live it up.
With an attitude of smug narcissism, he gloated over the event he had created as he stripped away his clothing in preparation to pray. Under the canopy of the night, with lights put in place to illuminate no-one but him, he would perform the greatest stunt in all of history. Under the stars of heaven and the gaze of all men he would take his own life.
He had advertised the Heretic Exhibit as promising something that had never before been attempted, never even dreamed of; and he had no doubt that this, he would deliver.
He had brought a small leather satchel with him into the trailer. This was precious to him, so much so that he allowed no-one else to touch it and insisted upon transporting it himself. Checking the silver and crystal analogue clock that was mounted to the wall he saw that he had only fifteen minutes left before show time, so he reverentially opened the satchel to check upon the contents.
Satisfied that everything was in order, he bowed to the floor and began his pre-show devotional prayer. The prayer was, by nature, short in length. He simply prayed for strength, for grace, and for eloquence. When he was finished, he rose and began to dress himself in his showman’s finest as the sound of the introduction tape penetrated the trailer, the crowd’s reaction of screaming glee almost drowning it out completely.
He steadily made his way down the slope that led to the stage as the images on screen switched from portrayals of nature’s majesty and the stunning feats that he had done in past shows to display instead just one single word. ‘HERETIC’, it screamed, the same word flashing over and over, morphing just slightly to burn in a different color each time that it appeared.
The smoke from the fog machines billowed out across the stage, rolling in thick, carefully created waves that were as purposeful as a lion stalking its prey. The image then changed again from the single repeated word to photographs and paintings of heretics through the ages; criminals, martyrs, zealots and disturbing images of the most macabre kinds, wrenching astonished gasps from the crowd before his voice suddenly boomed out from the speakers, cutting through the spell that the images had placed the crowd under.
“Welcome to the world!” he greeted them with a wide, genuine smile. “I am pleased and humbled beyond words to be able to welcome two very special guests to share this with us tonight. It is an honour to stand here before you, Mr. President; and such a blessing to be in the presence of the most Holy Father, the Pope.”
The crowd roared in delight, thrilled to be amongst such an exclusive group. He indulged them by allowing them to scream as he made his way to the center of the stage, motioning to the sound and lighting guys to cut the visuals behind him and direct the lights upon him as he had designed. The central spotlight was directly over him and he was flanked either side by a red light pointing upwards.
When the masses calmed and looked back towards the stage they saw what was to them their hero, their messiah, appearing to float on a pillar of snow-white light fifteen feet above the ground. The red lights on the sides made it seem as if all the evil of the world was being held at bay by the beautiful and brave man in the midst of the white glow.
He was radiant. His three piece suit was a perfect, untainted white with tails, and his white shoes gleamed; everything that he wore was white but for the embroidered edging of his vest which was an emerald green. His chocolate brown hair was combed back with one rogue curl stubbornly and deliberately resting upon his forehead, and his wide smile was, to the crowd, like the sunrise after the longest and darkest night of their lives.
He raised his arms in a request for silence which the audience instantly granted to him. “Tonight,” he began softly, “I will finally realize my dreams. From my earliest childhood memories I have known that I was brought forth into this world for a purpose.”
Wild applause greeted him from all sides, and his voice became stronger, drawing nourishment from the adulation of the crowds. “The world of magic was my hallway! Not my doorway; we all know, of course, that a door can only allow someone to move in one of two directions. No, magic was the hallway, and the further that I have travelled down that hallway the more rooms and passageways I have seen, have been given the opportunity to travel into! My beloved friends, magic itself is what gave me the greatest gift man could ever receive. It brought me to God!”
The crowd erupted again. Some of the women in the front rows were filmed with tears of joy sliding down their heavily made-up faces, the images shown on the screens that were placed all around the park and broadcast to the entire world.
“I love the Lord!” he continued passionately. “Everyone here tonight and all those watching at home knows that I dedicate all of my works to his Almighty Name. Tonight, I bring each one of us closer to his Majesty. Since I awoke to the wonders of faith and grace I have been on a quest, a quest that has taken me all over this beautiful plant which our Father hath created.
“My quest? The one piece of the puzzle that was missing, the one single piece with which I could unlock and open the doors of heaven! Yes, and tonight, on this most glorious night here in New York city, I can that announce that finally I hold the missing piece! Tonight, I shall do what no other before me has accomplished, for the pieces of the afterlife have been joined together once more and shall thus be introduced to you all this very night!”
He raised his arms, punching the air triumphantly with his proclamation. The people below the stage were drunk with the wondrous power that was now emanating from their oracle. They raised their arms as one, crying out praise for the man floating in the white lights as he stood still in the middle of the stage, arms uplifted and his face turned towards the heavens.
From above, a circular metal object was making a steady descent. The cameras instantly zoomed in on it to get a tight shot for the people at the back of the mass gathering and those watching through their television screens. It was a fine silver ring, three feet in diameter with a second, smaller ring suspended in the middle. They were bound together by minute circles that had been soldered in perfect spacing between the outer and inner rings.
The contraption was perfectly flat, clearly designed to hold small objects securely. As it descended it became clear that it held thirteen small vials. They too were silver, and no larger than the vials used at a doctor's office to obtain a blood sample from patients.
“Behold!” he exclaimed, drawing all eyes back to him. “These vials contain that which is my life's work. After thirty years of research, and the blood, sweat, tears and life of countless people, the thirteenth has now rejoined its fellows to complete the priceless collection you see before you. And I assure you, the power contained within is more precious and potent than the entire universe that we float in."
A pregnant, expectant hush had fallen throughout Central Park. No man, women or child spoke, nor did they move; everyone could feel the gravity of the situation even though none of them knew the truth of what was contained in the tiny vials.
He stared out across the masses that formed his flock, fierce pride and joy coursing through his body alongside a sensation of absolute and complete power. He could sense every vein and artery as his heart forced blood to race through them; he was giddy, each and every cell of his body trembling in anticipation.
Reaching out, he plucked his prize, the thirteenth vial, from its cradle of metal. In victory he raised it to show to the crowd and cried loudly, “I hold now the DNA of Jesus Christ! The Son of the Father, and the Lamb of ultimate sacrifice! Tonight, in honour of those who searched before me, who paved the way for this miracle, I shall call forth He who was slaughtered to save us!
“Jesus Christ will come down from heaven at my command to rule over the clearing of this sin-filled and poisonous world! I have the key to hold the Holy Spirit in my hands. Will you be ready? Will you stand with me to greet the Lord and save our Earth?!” he demanded.
With the crowd’s uniform wails of delight and agreement pounding through his ears, he turned and carefully placed the thirteenth vial back into the now completed circle that he had taken it from. Someone had begun to sing a hymn of praise and it was quickly taken up by throngs until the melody was pouring from thousands of throats. He faced his congregation with shining eyes, mouthing the words to the song along with them.
As they reached the refrain for the second time he began to gyrate to the pace of the tune. His head was bouncing from side to side, his arms moving in time to the music as he began to speak in tongues. He yelled and whispered, he cried and laughed, declaring a message in a long-dead language that none could understand.
He emerged from the trance as quickly as he had fallen into it. “I can smell you all and I can hear what you are thinking,” he said calmly, silencing their cries of adulation. “So many out there tonight are wondering if this could really happen? Can a man truly call down Jesus from the right hand of his Father’s throne? Yes! I understand you doubters, more so than you even understand yourselves. I know that I can do this. I know that this is truly the way and the will of God. But before I bring the mercy for believers and the ruination for the faithless I want you all to see how I have come to perform this greatest of deeds."
He turned slightly toward stage left and beckoned to someone just out of view. A trolley was wheeled out across the vast stage toward the man in the center. It was only a small device, something desserts would be placed on then paraded around a restaurant to tempt the diners, and there was a heavy purple cloth draped across a lump in the center.
The roadie hastily bowed to the man and then backed away, rejoining the shadows in the wings of the stage. Just as the cameras had closed in on the hand lifting the purple covering away, the feed was interrupted by a pre-filmed video address. The lights on the stage were dimmed just enough to enable the television screens to dominate the night air.
On the screens were a perfect framing of the prophet, his arms disappearing into the cut sides of the picture; he was straightening the camera on a tripod. Satisfied that he had lined it up correctly, his face broke out into a grim smile as he stepped out of the view of the lens and his voice began to flow from the speakers.
"She told me we were as one. Our entire lives together; never alone."
The screen was now displaying the image of three men silently excavating a deep hole in the smooth grass of what seemed to be a park.
"Indeed, the greatness that I was destined to achieve was no more or less than my birthright.”
He then made a slash movement across his throat to the lighting crew and the house lights were brought down completely down, the only light now coming from the glow of the screen as the audience stared at it, mesmerized by their love for the entertainer, no matter how strange his actions were becoming to seem.
The picture on screen widened further as the men in the hole ceased their work, apparently reaching their goal. Suddenly, a metal square soared out of the hole and through the air, landing just inches away from the tripod upon which the camera was resting.
From the angle of the shot, the writing inscribed on the box was crystal clear. There was a name written upon it in large blocked font, with two different years etched below.
The tension in the park was palpable, for the people gathered realized that they all knew the name and the latter of the dates, if not the first. Before their reactions could register the house lights were abruptly raised again to illuminate the man on the stage once more. He had one hand placed possessively upon the box on the dessert trolley, the same box that had just been shown on the screen.
“Yes!” he called out, roaring to the crowd. “You all see now – I have brought her here tonight to bear witness to the miracle that I shall create!”
With his words still hanging heavily in the air, he bent down to remove the tattered and flaking head of his wife from the box. The embalmers had worked to the best of their abilities, but regardless of any chemicals that are pumped into it, human flesh will eventually rot and return to dust.
"She is here to face the Lord tonight with all the rest of you! She hath broken the covenant sworn to both God and myself; she carried the seed of sin within her womb! And now – now, she will confess these sins before God and before the world!" T
Despite the gruesome sight before their eyes, the crowd cheered and wept. They could not prevent themselves from worshipping the man on the stage as he held up the severed and lifeless head of his once beautiful wife. Gently turning her blank and staring glass eyes towards him, he took a black marker pen and carefully wrote ‘H A R L O T’ on the mummified forehead. He then raised her face and kissed her one last time on the dry sandpaper dead lips before balancing the stump of her neck on the stage so that she could watch the show.
“My mission is pure and clear, my brothers and sisters,” he continued confidently. “I have absolute faith in the return of the Lord Jesus Christ. Now, there is one last item for you to bear witness to; all that is my strength is also His strength, and it is unwavering!"
He drew a sheet of paper from the breast pocket of his snowy suit. “This is paper, yet like all paper – and indeed, like all of life – it is not what something is, it is what is buried within in that matters! I stand before you tonight as a man with a dream, and to prove the sincerity of my convictions I have taken the step to sell my soul to Lucifer, to Satan himself.”
The crowd seemed to take a collective step back from the stage that he could not avoid noticing. "Oh, fear not! The terms of the agreement between Satan and I are clear! I shall give him my life and my soul only if my Lord does not come to me! I have no doubt that our Father shall arrive; but if he does not, then I shall bequeath these vials of DNA that I have spent my life attaining to the Prince of Darkness.
He paused his speech to allow himself a moment to relish his last sentence, barely stifling a gleeful burst of maniacal laughter. Tonight was beautiful. Beautiful! No longer could he resist. “Tonight is beautiful!” he roared to the crowd, and they echoed his words back to him as he signalled to his servants at the edge of the stage, seated near the President and the Pope. They nodded in acknowledgment and began to make their way outwards, dissolving into the shadows.
When he saw them re-appear with their men lined up behind them, he raised his right hand and they took their cue to move throughout the crowd. "My good and faithful servants are walking among you and distributing the ceremonial offerings of Jesus Christ's body,” he announced to the heaving crowds. “We shall partake together in the Lord's Supper and then He will come! Take His body, for we shall be nourished by Him alone! Drink! Drink of His blood that we may never thirst again!"
He held his own portion of communion high above his head in his left hand as every member of the audience did likewise, their movements matching the holy man on the stage as they waited for his command. "Yahweh! Lord of Hosts, and God of gods! I offer myself to thee! Come back to us, come save us from thine holy wrath!"
He lowered his left hand and placed the offering upon his tongue. Thousands upon thousands of people were lined up in Central Park, amongst them the President and the Pope who were broadcast live on television as they partook of this Lord’s Supper. Mothers placed the wafer on the tongues of their innocent infants, old and young alike consuming the communion as one.
They had all noticed the mildly bitter and unpleasant taste on their tongue, but the mass ecstasy of the crowd had banished all reasonable thought. The first man crumpled as if he was suffering a heat stroke, but when the Pope and the President fell too, it seemed to start a domino reaction.
Those who had not initially fallen shrieked and screamed in terrible panic and fear, but it did not last long. In all too short a time, the grounds of Central Park were covered with the collapsed bodies of the faithful. Cyanide had been placed upon the wafers that had been passed out for the final supper.
Though the cars around the park and all throughout New York kept up their joyful noises, the sounds of honking horns and shouting cabbies echoing around the streets, silence reigned in the park. However, it seemed to the numb and shell-shocked viewers at home they could still hear a faint whisper.
"7. The days of punishment are coming, the days of reckoning are at hand. Let Israel know this. Because your sins are so many and your hostility so great, the prophet is considered a fool, the inspired man a maniac. The prophet, along with my God, is the watchman over Ephraim, yet snares await him on all his paths, and hostility in the house of his God. Hosea 9:7-8"